Finding the perfect gift for a child is tough. As any parent knows, the ideal toy is fun, NOT LOUD, and even, dare I say, educational? So does your child’s gift really need to be a toy? As a been-there-done-that mommy of two energetic boys, I have browsed, bought, played with, and kept or tossed plenty of toy and non-toy gifts for kids.
Here is the ultimate list of all the best non-toy gift ideas for boys and girls of all ages!
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The best non-toy gift ideas for Christmas and beyond!
The gifts here are meant to inspire your child and be loved year-round; they will work for Christmas, birthdays, and more.
My readers have been begging me for a list of non-toy gifts that are suitable for families who are trying to live more minimally.
Not only that, these non-toy gift ideas are meant to keep clutter and noise to a minimum. You’re welcome in advance.
This list IS NOT separated by gender. I wanted to create a toy list with gifts that could be appreciated by boys and girls alike.
I have a friend who is an amazingly talented knitter — and also happens to be male. Likewise, there are girls out there who also love to play with ‘boy toys’.
Hot tip! Save money on your gifts all year long!
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The ultimate list of non-toy gifts for all ages
#1. World globe
It is so much fun to sit down with children and seek out places on a map that you have been to or plan on going to in the future!
Start educating your children in advance about the different countries, states, cities, and languages of the world and you will give them a head start on sociology, geography, and other facts.
Buying a globe doesn’t have to cost a fortune either!
You can often find vintage globes at the thrift store for anywhere from $2-$5, depending on availability and region.
If you have smaller children who aren’t able to read location names yet, there are also many excellent interactive models, like this Oregon Scientific Smart Globe with 19 games and an interactive Smart Pen that allows children to touch different points on the map and hear facts about:
- Area & more
#2. World map
If globes aren’t quite your thing, why not consider a gift that is both decorative and educational?
This gorgeous wall decal is easy to stick on any child’s bedroom wall.
It makes a colorful statement decor piece that doubles as a fun activity!
Your child can learn all about the various countries of the world and see some of the cute animals that live there.
#3. Adopt a road, tree, etc
Give a really special gift and adopt a road, tree or other items that contribute to the preservation of our planet.
You can even adopt coral as part of the oceanic preservation and restoration!
#4. Magazine subscription
Encourage your child to read with a magazine subscription – Highlights is my personal favorite choice for young children.
For over 70 years the children’s magazine Highlights has been delighting children and offers subscriptions that are appropriate for children in the following ages brackets:
They also offer a bilingual subscription for ages 2-6 in English and Spanish! As a mother in a multilingual family, I can really appreciate this.
#5. A fruit tree, bush, or herb garden
This is one of my FAVORITE non-toy gifts for children!
They can get involved and literally enjoy the fruits of their labor after nurturing a garden.
If you want to purchase an outdoor fruit tree or bush it’s going to take a little research on your part, as you need to take the climate of the region you are buying for into account.
The plants you can grow outside in Miami, FL are going to differ from the ones that would work in Chicago, IL, such as the lovely fig tree from Easy to Grow pictured below.
The age of the child should also be taken into consideration — an older child can handle something that needs fertilizer, repotting, and trimming, while a younger child will best maintain a plant that only requires sunlight and watering.
#6. A DIY sensory bin kit
If you are a fan of DIY gifts or perhaps need to save a little bit of money on a gift, you can create a customized sensory bin using items you already have around the house!
All you need is:
- A plastic lidded bin
- Rice, beans, or other small filler materials
- Natural wonders, small toys, magnetic letters, or other interesting items
Simply fill the bin with the filler, add the toys, close the lid, and there you have an exciting invitation to play!
PS, you don’t need to buy anything new; either use toys you already have lying around the house or go outside and collect things like sticks, pinecones, horse chestnuts, flowers, leaves, etc.
#7. Their own chair or beanbag
We were gifted this exact chair when my first son turned 2 and he used it up until the time we had to give it away so we could move overseas!
I can say this was hands-down one of the most memorable, useful, and joyful gifts my son has ever received — I would encourage you to choose vinyl or leather over the microfiber, as I think it would have been much easier to keep clean, in hindsight.
We loved the reclining feature but please do keep in mind to be careful and supervise very young children as they are using it, as curious little fingers may get pinched!
If you are concerned about the reclining mechanism, a beanbag chair also makes an excellent gift. This beanbag chair doubles as a stuffed animal storage unit and has 4.7/5 star reviews!
#8. Knitting or Crochet kits (Amazon)
Give your child a gift that will last a lifetime — a skill that allows them to let their creative juices flow and they can have a hobby they can appreciate for years to come.
Learning a skill like knitting or crocheting is a busy, dexterous activity that engages the body and the mind.
It’s so much better than having your child mindlessly sitting in front of a TV!
Not only are knitting and crocheting great for fine motor planning and coordination, but they have also been found to have relaxing effects.
#9. Metal detector
Kids who love stories of pirates and buried treasure will love hunting for booty in their very own yard with a metal detector!
This non-toy gift is great for yards, beaches, sandboxes, and dunes, metal detectors can keep kids quietly entertained for HOURS as they search for loot.
Consider your child’s age and height when buying a metal detector — they have to be strong enough to lift and tall enough to use the length effectively.
#10. Crystal growing kit
Growing crystals is a fun STEM experiment for kids that gives them a literal treasure.
You can either purchase your own crystal growing kit (this one allows you to grow crystals you can actually light up) or you can DIY a science experiment yourself a home with a gift basket of Borax and starter rocks.
Give the gift of curiosity with a microscope!
They will have fun using the microscope to examine all sorts of interesting stuff from the worlk around them, including their own hair, spit, leaves, and other bits!
Telescopes are another great non-toy gift to get your child interested in science and the world around them.
This is a great present for older children who can stay up a little later and are able to properly clean and care for their telescope.
In the summer you can make watching the moon and stars a fun backyard activity!
#13. A pop-up tent
Speaking of outdoor camping, why not consider giving a gift that works at the beach, for pretend play, or in their very own backyard?
A pop-up tent can be used as a fort for pretend play activities, be used for indoor or outdoor camping with the family, and even be taken to the beach to use as a sun shelter!
Best of all pop-up tents are fast and easy to assemble. They also fold up thin for easy carrying and storage.
This is the family-sized version of the pop-up tent that we own.
#14. LED lantern
Whether you are camping in your backyard or telling spooky stories to each other at Halloween, an LED lamp makes a great gift!
Make sure you choose an LED lantern with a rechargeable battery that will last for years to come. This is the one that I bought from a local home goods store, which we LOVE!
Here are a few ways we have used our LED lamp:
- Indoor camping trip
- Making shadow puppets with our hands
- Reading glow-up books in the dark
- Telling stories at night
- Lighting our car truck during Trunk-or-Treat for Halloween
- Pretend campfire with stuffed animals in attendance
- Use it when the power goes out!
#15. An eco-friendly clothing shopping trip
Take your child on a clothing shopping spree — with a twist!
Did you know that for every bag of clothing you donate H&M will present you with a 15% off coupon for use at their store?
That’s part of their amazing initiative that helps keep usable textile materials out of landfills via their textile recycling program!
The U.S. alone sends 21 BILLION pounds of textile waste per year to landfills, much of which could be processed for reuse.
To participate just fill any bag, small or large, with clothing that you no longer need and drop it off at the dropbox located at the checkout desk, then ask a clerk for your coupon.
(The condition of the clothing does not matter. As long as the items are clean, holes, tears, missing buttons, etc are not an issue. However, they do not accept undergarments and shoes.)
Teach your child about the importance of recycling and drop off their worn clothing, then take them shopping for new clothes with the 15% discount they earned.
Reading has numerous benefits beyond reading comprehension.
Not only have studies have shown that reading increases IQ, but it also helps children be more empathetic, encourages problem-solving, and hardwires them for early abstract thinking.
As Dr. Seuss says in his book, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut:
The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go.
#17. Arts and crafts supplies
Art and craft supplies make a great non-toy gift for girls and boys alike!
There are endless arts and craft activities to choose from, from painting to origami to building models of cars.
Choose the art or craft that suits your child’s interest and watch their creativity grow!
#19. Sand window
Have you or your child ever been entranced by videos of slime squishing, woodcutting, food chopping, or any other repetitive and oddly soothing movements?
You are not alone!
In fact, these Oddly Satisfying-style videos have gotten so popular, people have started to take notice and ask, why?
Turns out watching those videos triggers the release of chemicals in your brain that makes you feel relaxed, positive, and happy.
But why settle for videos when you could gift your child with tangible experience?
Sand windows are beloved by adults and children alike for their soothing beauty. Watching the sand slowly fall and pile in beautiful striated patterns is like a balm to the spirit.
Surprisingly, it took a LOT of research to find a good quality moving sand window (a lot of the cheaper options are manufactured in China and seem to get bubbles, come without stands, and break easily).
This high-quality sand window is handmade in Austria and comes with a beautifully crafted base, blunt injector and air scale (for preventing bubbles), an instruction manual, and hours of peace and serenity.
#20. A beautiful umbrella
Umbrellas are a special treat for boys and girls alike.
This is a budget-friendly gift that you can find nearly anywhere; it’s also extremely functional!
Whether you have a boy who loves Paw Patrol or a girl who would adore a pink-fridged clear parasol, umbrellas are sure to delight any child.
#21. Kitchen utensils
There is an old proverb that goes:
Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.
Children love getting involved in the kitchen.
Teach them to be self-sufficient and let them assist in making their own meals and snacks and they will be in hog heaven!
#22. Fishing pole
Speaking of fishing, why not actually teach them how to fish? Fishing is a great bonding activity and fun sport; above all, it teaches patience.
Find a fishing pole that suits your child’s age and motor abilities and let the fun begin.
#23. Boogie Board LCD Writing Tablet
This is the perfect gift for artsy children who have parents who love to keep things clean!
It takes up minimal space, is tons of fun to use, and creates NO MESS, unlike dry erase markers and other art supplies.
Think of the classic Etch-a-sketch with more flexibility — with a push of a button, any drawing magically vanishes so you can start on your next work of art!
Here is a picture of our Boogie Board in action — yes, he can run.
#24. Jigsaw puzzles
I consider myself a jigsaw puzzle connoisseur.
As a child my grandmother always gifted wonderful and intricate jigsaw puzzles — I didn’t think about it at the time, but I am sure that my parents loved this quiet-time gift that kept me occupied for hours at a time.
Jigsaw puzzles make excellent gifts because they:
- Improve concentration and memory
- Reduce stress levels through quiet play
- Inspire the imagination
- Support brain function and creative problem solving
- Teach team effort when families work together
Consider the age of the child you want to give this non-toy gift to – here are some age-appropriate examples of jigsaw puzzles by age.
I tend to prefer Melissa & Doug products because I know they are high-quality (and hold their resale value when your child outgrows their toys.)
Older children with higher cognitive levels can work on jigsaw puzzles with anywhere from 100-1,000 pieces.
#25. Spray bottle
This non-toy gift will only set you back a few dollars and is loads of fun!
My kids begged me for a spray bottle for WEEKS after seeing me cleaning my bathroom with my DIY vinegar cleaner (come to think of it, I should have put them to work cleaning, hahaha).
A spray bottle can be used for summer water play, outdoor spray bottle fights (less painful than getting hit in the eye by a squirt gun), or even during bathtime!
Pick one up at Walmart, the Dollar Store, or Target and watch the fun!
#26. Turtle scooter
All the children at my son’s school go gaga for the Turtle Scooter!
This awesome scooter encourages balance, coordination, muscle strength, and endurance in kids ages 3 years and up!
The weight limit on this baby is 150 pounds, so feel free to jump on and give it a test yourself if you are under the weight limit!
#27. Binoculars and a bird feeder
Birdwatching is a fun activity at any age!
All you need is a pair of binoculars and maybe a bird feeder set up to encourage little feathered friends to pay a visit to a nearby window of your home for easy viewing.
Or take a walk in the forest with your binoculars and a bird bok and keep a list of all the birds you find!
#28. A piggy bank
This is a gift that literally pays off in the future.
Gift your child with a piggy bank and give them a head start in life when it comes to learning the importance of budgeting, saving, and spending money wisely.
#29. Indoor or outdoor swingset
If you have active children, get them moving with a swing set!
Outdoor swing sets are great for getting your kids their daily dose of fresh air and vitamin D, but indoor swing sets are also great during the cold winter months.
They even have swings that especially benefit special needs children, such as those who have Autism or sensory integration disorders.
This type of swing was very popular amount the hospitals and therapy clinics I worked in as a speech-language pathologist.
We loved our indoor swing set (this is the one that we owned.)
#30. An air fort
Children love to hide inside air forts and can provide hours of fun playtime!
You can either DIY a play fort gift basket yourself with all the things you need to make an air fort or get this epic 30-second air fort that looks like a circus tent!
#31. Special pajamas
Special pajamas make a great non-toy gift, especially during Christmas!
You can choose things like:
- Onesie pajamas
- Matching pajamas for everyone in the family
- Pajamas that feature your child’s favorite character
- Glow-in-the-dark pajamas
- & more…
#32. A watch (digital or manual)
Being able to tell time is an important life skill.
Around 6-7 years of age children can start becoming interested in learning about time and how to measure it with a watch.
A digital watch makes a great gift at this age; around ages 9-10 is when children fully master the milestone of telling time, after which you could also consider a more difficult manual watch.
#33. Charitable donation
A charitable donation makes a great gift and learning experience for appropriately aged children.
You can either choose to seek out local charities and try to donate time or money in person or allow the child to choose a charity organization and make a donation via letter or online.
If you choose to go local, seek out soup kitchens, homeless shelters, shelters for battered women, food banks, etc.
If you want to research online, keep in mind that not all charities are created equal.
In fact, many charities are notorious for funneling most of the money donating to company executives and marketing campaigns, rather than for the listed “cause”.
Work with your child to find a good charitable organization by using a watchdog list of charity websites that donate most of their funds to the people they are supposed to help!
#34. A photo album (with pictures of them in it, of course)
Children love to look at themselves in photos.
Gift them with a high-quality photo album full of pictures of themselves and family members and you will have a memento they can treasure forever.
While I do prefer physical photo albums, if you are trying to go paperless you might also consider a digital photo frame like this one that can store tons of family photos in a paperless, clutter-free format.
#35. Bilibo seat
It’s a helmet.
It’s a mountain.
It’s a rocking chair.
It’s all of those and more — it’s Bilibo!
This curious little creation from a Swiss inventor is what happens when playtime meets modern art.
Bilibo went viral a few years ago and continues to delight children by stimulating the sense and engaging their imaginations by encouraging open-ended play.
Great for kids 2-7 years old, although there is no weight limit (just sayin’).
36. Classes or memberships
Consider your child’s interests.
Do they love to dance? Enroll them in a hip hop or ballet class!
Express an interest in cooking? Take them to a child-friendly cooking class where they can make cookies or pizza.
Memberships also make great presents, such as the zoo or local museums. (Pro-tip: see if there is a family discount offered and the entire family can fill their schedule with fun activities year-round.)
#37. A kitchen tower
Since kids love getting involved in the kitchen, why not bring them up to help at your level?
We purchased a solid wood folding kitchen tower for our children and they enjoyed it for years before they finally outgrew it. In fact, my older son insisted on standing in his tower to eat all his meals, hahaha.
While the exact same kitchen tower we owned is no longer available, I found this Montessori-style tower from EtteTete that I think is even better — it actually folds into an adorable table, which means you get two useful pieces of furniture in a single gift!
This shop maintains a five-star rating with over 770 reviews, so they must be amazing.
Like these non-toy gift ideas?
I hope that you and the child you are buying for enjoy their gift!
Pin to remember next year!